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Video: Bloomberg, LaPierre on guns; roundtable on gay marriage

updated 3/24/2013 1:10:01 PM ET 2013-03-24T17:10:01

DAVID GREGORY:

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This Sunday, a special focus on the political debate over our personal freedoms in this country.

100 days since the massacre at a Newtown school and the gun safety debate is coming to a head on Capitol Hill. But are gun control advocates going to be disappointed as an assault weapons ban appears headed for failure. This morning two key voices in the debate join me exclusively: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre.

Then, marriage equality. Do gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry? The Supreme Court is taking up the question. And we'll discuss how far the country has moved on gay marriage politically. But is there still a ways to go? One of key lawyers in the fight, David Boies, joins our discussion.

Plus the president in the Middle East.

(Videotape)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Atem lo lavad'. You are not alone.

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

How did he do? Analysis about his new push for peace and new warnings for Syria and Iran.

New hope for a peace push in the Middle East. The president arrived back in Washington after a Mideast trip that took him to Israel for his first time as president, as well as visits to the Palestinian territories and to Jordan. While a reinvigorated process is one goal, more pressing concerns for the Obama White House are the threats from Iran and the effects of the relentless bloodshed in Syria.

We want to begin this morning with some analysis about the president's trip this morning with our chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, back from the region. He's in New York this morning. I've also got David Brooks of the New York Times and E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post here with me in Washington.

Richard, let me start with you. The president called on Israel to renew efforts toward the creation of a Palestinian state. He helped restore the Israeli/Turkish relationship. So what else do you think he can return with that he can actually build upon?

RICHARD ENGEL:

Well, I think the reconciliation between Turkey and Israel is something that's very important because I wouldn't see the chances right now of an Israeli/Palestinian reconciliation, but I do think the Middle East recognizes that there are urgent regional matters. As Syria implodes, that the region needs to have some sort of summit, and Turkey is going to play a big part of that.

So I think coming out of this, you're going to see Istanbul emerging as a major destination for diplomatic relations. I think that was the way to view the Middle East trip right now, in a regional context, not so much about getting the Israelis and Palestinians to talk.

DAVID GREGORY:

And, Richard, you talk about some of the private discussions going on between the president and Bibi Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Jordan, the focus on the endgame in Syria and the threat from Iran. This is going to occupy much of the president's time.

RICHARD ENGEL:

It certainly will. If you look right now at the region, Syria's imploding. It is exporting refugees. It is exporting instability. Israel feels very threatened, very unsure about its future. That's obvious by the way they are walling themselves in psychologically and physically. And I think the president went there to give Israel a big hug.

Some people in the region think that he went too far, that he went too far to embrace Zionism as an ideology, not just the State of Israel. The Palestinians generally were disappointed with the trip, nothing concrete coming out of it. But the idea was to make Israel feel secure in an increasingly insecure region.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Richard Engel, just back from the region. He's in New York this morning. Thank you very much, Richard. To David Brooks and E.J. Dionne. David, what did the president accomplish in terms of how did he perform? I think that's a big aspect of the trip.

DAVID BROOKS:

It was a triumph. You know, he hasn't brought peace to the Middle East but he's brought peace to the American debate about the Middle East. The right loved it; the left loved it. He gave a strong, really strong endorsement and vocalization of what Zionism is all about. He saw the world through Palestinian eyes.

Politically or policy-wise, he moved us away from the settlement freeze issue, which had sort of frozen debates, back to a pre-Obama policy which says Israel is not going to be giving away land as well as Islamic extremism is on the march but we have to have some peace process so the moderates in the region can be strengthened. So that's where America should be; I think that's where people on both sides want it to be. He achieved that.

DAVID GREGORY:

E.J. Dionne, ten years after the start of the Iraq war, there is the prospect of conflict that can roil the region from Syria, as well as the threat from Iran. The president also has to prepare the American public for some kind of U.S. engagement.

E.J. DIONNE:

Well, you know, I don't think he has to prepare the U.S. public yet for engagement. I think the supporters of the Iraq war said it would be the Big Bang in the Middle East; well, it was. But it didn't work out the way they had hoped. They were arguing that it would create a new and democratic Middle East.

Well, there have been the uprisings, which may or may not have had anything to do with the Iraq war, but there's a lot of instability. But I think the president's trip was really important. He had three objectives, and I think he achieved two of them. He had to get right with Israeli public opinion. His standing in the polls there had been low, and Prime Minister Netanyahu could use Obama as a kind of foil for the last four years. I think he clearly achieved that.

He had to reestablish the two-state solution, democratic Israel/democratic Palestine, as the only way out. The two-state solution has been losing ground and he succeeded in doing that. What's still open is can he get these talks going again. Richard is right: The short term is about Iran and Syria, but we have to make some progress. And Kerry stayed behind and is clearly the designated leader to try to get that going.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, more from you to as we move on to other topics later on in the program.

(Begin videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

Mr. Mayor, welcome back to the program.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Thank you for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

Always good to have you. Big week in the gun debate, I'll get to that in just a minute. Let me start with the president's significant trip to the Middle East. He's returned. Do you think he's erased any doubts about whether he's a stalwart supporter of Israel with his visit?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

No, I think he certainly said that he was and I think people believe that. I think this is going to go down in history as one of the few trips that an American president has made to Israel where there really were deliverables. He got Israel and Turkey talking to each other and restoring diplomatic relations. And I think that's crucial for the security of that whole area. He's got the Palestinians and the Israelis thinking long and hard about, they're going to have to find some ways to resolve their differences, no matter how difficult they are. You know, when you get people talking, only good things can come out.

DAVID GREGORY:

We'll be watching that closely, as we're watching this gun debate, as I know you are. Here we are, a hundred days after Newtown this weekend, after this massacre. There is a Senate bill, it's moving forward.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Yep--

DAVID GREGORY:

But the assault weapons ban has been taken out of the main bill. It appears to be more or less doomed in the view of most. Here's what you said right after Newtown when I had an opportunity to ask you some questions about it.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Right.

(Videotape)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

The NRA’s power is so vastly overrated. The public, when you do the polls, they want to stop this carnage. And if 20 kids isn’t enough to convince them, I don’t know what would.

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

The N.R.A.'s power does seem to be where it has always been. Do you fear that the moment that was created by Newtown has been lost?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, it would be a great tragedy for this country and for tens of thousands of lives if it is lost. I-- having said that -- I am cautiously optimistic. I think when you have an issue where 90% of the public, 80% of N.R.A. members even, say that they think we should have reasonable checks before people are allowed to buy guns -- they all support the Second Amendment, as do I do. But there are an awful lot of people that think that this is one of the great issues of our times. We have to stop the carnage --

DAVID GREGORY:

But Congress is paralyzed, Mayor. You see that. I mean, you've got Democrats--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, we--

DAVID GREGORY:

--and Republicans who are not moved by these polls.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, you'll be better able to judge that after recess. We're running ads around the country, we've got people making -- manning phone banks and calling. We're trying to do everything we can to impress upon the Senators that this is what the survivors want, this is what the public wants. This is what the 900-plus mayors that are in our organization want, and they're the ones that have to deliver safety to the streets every single day. This is what the 1.5 million people who've already signed up to our "Demand a Plan" website want. I don't think there's ever been an issue where the public has spoken so clearly, where Congress hasn't eventually understood and done the right thing.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you don't think the assault weapons ban is going to pass?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, look. We've been fighting since 2007 to get a vote. We are going to have a vote for sure on assault weapons and we're going to have a vote on background checks. And if we were to get background checks only, it wouldn't be as good as if we got both, but -- we demanded a plan and then we demanded a vote. We've got the plan, we're going to get the vote. And now it's incumbent on us to make our voices heard--

DAVID GREGORY:

But you sound, frankly Mayor, much more resigned. I mean, you, after Newtown, you said, "The N.R.A. is not as strong as it used to be." The N.R.A. is proving to be exactly as strong as it used to be. And here you're -- you're-- you seem to be celebrating the fact that there is at least a vote. But that's -- that's a far cry--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, because--

DAVID GREGORY:

--from achieving the results that you said--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, yeah. And--

DAVID GREGORY:

--were essential.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

And, while I think we are going to win this, celebrating in advance isn't the right thing to do. We've got to go out, we've got a lot of work ahead of us. But I don't think we should give up on the assault weapons ban. But clearly, it is a more difficult issue for a lot of people. And I don't know that that reflects the N.R.A.'s power. It may be just that people have different views about assault weapons than they do about background checks. Ninety percent of the people want background checks, period. And--

DAVID GREGORY:

But you know the N.R.A. says, "Look, if you do that--" there's a secret agenda that-- the N.R.A. and Wayne LaPierre talk about, which is to create a registry of all illegal gun owners. And his view, as he said to Republicans, "They either want to tax the gun or take 'em away."

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Okay-- he can say anything he wants. But the truth of the matter is, this isn't about Wayne LaPierre. This is about the public wanting to be safe on their streets. This is about the public having the right to buy arms and the right to -- to protect themselves and the right to use them for sport, for hunting. But also, it's about the public's right to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. That's in everybody's interests. And in fact, if you go back to 1999, Wayne LaPierre testified on behalf of the N.R.A. that background checks were appropriate and should be done. And Congress, back in 1968, actually made them the law of the land. But they don't apply to 40% of the gun sales today. Something like 58,000 gun dealers across this country, three times the number of McDonald's stores as a matter of fact, there's gun stores every place in this country. And those gun sellers, they do background checks on all their clients. I think last year 78,000 times, the government found reasons to deny people a permit to get a gun based on either they were criminals or they had mental problems. If that doesn't tell you that this is a real problem, and that -- but good checks can really do something, I don't know what would.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you about in New York, the N.R.A. has filed a suit to try to defeat some of these gun control measures which are more robust than what the federal government is talking about within the state, that are about magazines, that are about background checks and assault weapons. How do you react to that?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, anybody has the right to go to court and sue over anything. And in New York, lots of people do that every single day. But the Supreme Court, which is the one that interprets what the Constitution actually means and says, has said clearly that reasonable background checks are consistent with the Second Amendment. That's what in the end is going to stop all of these other suits, that if the-- if the laws that they're trying to contest are consistent with that, they won't get very far.

DAVID GREGORY:

One more on this. You made it very clear this week, you're paying attention to the vote in the Senate, in Congress--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

--and you're taking names.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Yes--

DAVID GREGORY:

Will you target people, Republicans and Democrats, who do not support a weapons ban, an assault weapons ban, who do not vote for background checks -- will you spend money, lots of money, to target them in 2014, in the midterm race?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, let me phrase it this way. I think I have a responsibility, and I think you and all of your viewers have responsibilities, to try to make this country safer for our families and for each other. And if I can do that by spending some money and taking the N.R.A. from being the only voice to being one of the voices, so the public can really understand the issues, then I think my money would be well spent, and I think I have an obligation to do that. We're s--

DAVID GREGORY:

So you'll spend money on ads?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

We're starting to run ads today, or tomorrow -- I think I've spent $12 million on running ads in ten states around the country explaining to the public what the issues are, and how the -- and-- urging them to call their senators if they believe that we should have gun checks that stop criminals and people with mental illnesses from getting guns. They should call their senators.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you think you're -- will there be a political price to pay for a Republican or a Democrat who fails to vote based on this public polling to make assault weapons banned or to vote for background checks?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

If 90% of the public want something, and their representatives vote against that, common sense says, they are going to have a price to pay for that. The public is going to eventually wake up and say, "I want to put in office somebody that will do the things that I think are necessary for this country." That's what democracy is all about. And all we're trying to do is to tell them what people are doing in Congress, who's voting for what. And then they can make their own decisions.

DAVID GREGORY:

Couple minutes left, let me switch gears and talk about the fight for personal freedom here in New York City. Those people who oppose your effort in the name of public health to limit portion size when it comes to sugary drinks. A judge has ruled against you, saying the law doesn't make sense, at the moment. How far will you take this push to-- to limit how much soda you can drink in New York City?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Oh, well we're certainly appealing. We think the judge was just clearly wrong on this. Our department of health has the legal ability to do this. And we're not banning anything. All we're saying is we want to show you just how big the cup is. If you want 32 ounces, take two cups to your seat. If you want 64, carry four. But our hope is, if you only take one, you won't go back. And remember -

DAVID GREGORY:

So haven't you even won in losing, though? Wasn't this really about public awareness?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Oh, well, obesity this year is going to kill more people in New York City than smoking. And if you remember, when we put a smoking ban in, nobody thought that was going to work. Today, all of Latin America, all of Western Europe, and almost every big city in America and most of the states are smoke-free. This is another thing: Obesity is going to kill more people this year in the world than starvation.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, what about--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

We have to do something about it.

DAVID GREGORY:

Sodium-linked deaths in New York City? 23,000 back-- over the last year--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

We've been very successful. You look-- a lot of the packaged goods manufacturers are now advertising low sodium and they've reduced the sodium in their products. Everybody's better off.

DAVID GREGORY:

But where's the line? Would you ban the salt shaker?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

We're not banning anything. We're trying to urge them to tell the public -- we're tr-- our job is to educate. It's the public's job to decide when they look on the grocery shelf or have the lever on a soda machine, which thing to take, which product is in their interest. All we're trying to do is educate. And then hopefully, if they understand they would be better off with one product or another --

DAVID GREGORY:

But--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

They'll make the intelligent choice.

DAVID GREGORY:

You -- you could do ads for education. As the executive of New York City, you're telling people what they can and cannot do. Why is that government's job--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

No, we're not--

DAVID GREGORY:

--to do that?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

We're not telling them at all. We're telling them what science says is in their interest or isn't in their interest. We allow you to smoke. We just don't let you smoke where other people have to breathe the smoke that you -- that you're exhaling or comes from your cigarette. The same thing with obesity. Which incidentally, is a public interest because we're going to spend $5 billion on treating people with obesity in our hospitals in New York City alone this year. But regardless--

DAVID GREGORY:

But where is the line? Where -- where is it too far--

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

I have--

DAVID GREGORY:

--for government to go?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

I do not think we should ban most things. I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom. And that is, for example, if you're drinking, we shouldn't let you drive because you'll kill somebody else. If you are carrying a gun, we shouldn't let you on an airplane. There's a lot of things that we do -- if there's asbestos in a classroom, we should remove the kids from the classroom til you clean the air. But in terms of smoking, if you want to smoke, I think you have a right to do so and I would protect that. If you want to own a gun, I certainly think that’s constitutionally protected. You certainly have a right to have a gun if you want. If you want to eat a lot and get fat, you have a right to do it. But our job as government is to inform the public.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mayor Bloomberg, thanks as always.

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:

Here with me now in the studio, Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association. Mr. LaPierre, welcome back to the program.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Thanks, David, good to be with you.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, the legislative moment has arrived here on Capitol Hill. What's going to happen with gun safety litigation?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Well, I mean, you just heard Mayor Bloomberg, but he's going to find out this is a country of the people, by the people, and for the people. And he can't spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public. They don't want him in their restaurants, they don't want him in their homes. They don't want him telling them what food to eat; they sure don't want him telling them what self-defense firearms to own. And he can't buy America. He's so reckless in terms of his comments on this whole gun issue. He talks about guns buzzing. He's talking about machine guns. None of these guns are machine guns. He--

DAVID GREGORY:

But is he going to have an impact politically? He wants to be a counterweight to you. He wants to go into these races in 2014 and spend along with you. Are you preparing to arm politically people who agree with you, candidates and whatnot, in 2014?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

We have people all over, millions of people, sending us $5, $10, $15, $20 checks saying, "Stand up to this guy that says we can only have three bullets," which is what he said. "Stand up to this guy that says ridiculous things like, 'The N.R.A. wants firearms with nukes on them.'" I mean, it's insane, the stuff he says.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, but let me ask you about background checks, because the mayor referred to the polling. 90% of Americans want universal background checks. Here is this survey from Quinnipiac this week. Among those people who own guns, 85% support. Are you thwarting the will of the American people by standing in opposition to universal background checks?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

No, not at all because here's the thing: The whole thing, universal checks, is a dishonest premise. There's not a bill on the Hill that provides a universal check. Criminals aren't going to be checked. They're not going to do this. The shooters in Tucson, in Aurora, in Newtown, they're not going to be checked. They're unrecognizable. N.R.A. supported the national instant check system on dealers. We're a billion--

DAVID GREGORY:

That was a reference to 1999 when you testified supporting--

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Yes. We're $1 billion into this system now. It's not fair, it's not accurate, it's not instant. The mental health records are not in the system, and they don't prosecute any of the criminals that they catch. It's a speed bump for the law abiding. It slows down the law abiding and does nothing to anybody else.

DAVID GREGORY:

But why not try to create a system where you could have a better opportunity to trace a gun that was used in a crime, even if it's not 100%? I mean, because you've used such incendiary language, the idea that there's going to be a federal registry, which does not exist today, on legal gun owners, even though Dick's Sporting Goods and others participate in this.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

We've been trying for 20 years, and the N.R.A. is up on the Hill right now trying to get this existing system on retail dealers to work. But here's what they want to do. They want to take this current mess of a system and expand it now to 100 million law-abiding gun owners. Every time a hunter wants to sell a shotgun to another hunter in Kentucky, every time a farmer wants to sell a rifle to another farmer, they want to make them go somewhere.

Where are we go, down to a Walmart? Is Walmart going to want to see them walk in the door? The local police station, are they going to want to do it? There's going to be a bureaucracy, there's going to be a diversion of police resources.

DAVID GREGORY:

But isn't that preferable to a big loophole where you have 40% of sales, private sales, one on one where you've got no ability to trace it?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Here's the loophole: Society, the H.I.P.A.A. laws, the mental health laws, the medical records. The Adam Lanzas, the shooters in Aurora, the shooters in Newtown, they're unrecognizable. They're not going to be in the system. Who is going to be in the system? You and me, and our names are going to be in the system. There is going to be a list created; that list will be abused. Some newspaper will print it all. Somebody will hack it. There will be a registry. Obama's own Justice Department says they want a registry on this thing.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you've been negotiating with some on Capitol Hill, like Senator Manchin. Is there any kind of background check you'd be willing to support, or at least not oppose actively, that could allow this to pass?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

We want to fix the existing system on retail sales because our people are the ones that are going through it and are getting delayed. It doesn't work. Nobody gets prosecuted; it's completely ineffective. And the N.R.A. wants to do the thing that makes people safe, and I've been talking about it, I know the media doesn't want to talk about it, which is putting security in schools, armed security--

DAVID GREGORY:

Wayne, you keep saying that. Every time you've been here, we've talked about it, and I'm going to talk about it in a minute. But I just want to nail down this point because I think it's significant. Are you prepared to support something that would have some kind of-- will some kind of background check pass Congress?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

We are working on a bill right now that will hopefully at least get the records of those adjudicated medically incompetent and dangerous into the check system that applies on dealers. Most of the states still do not even do that. We need to see if we can get that done. We're looking to get better enforcement of the federal gun laws.

We're working on laws to beef up the penalties on straw purchases, and illegal trafficking, which we want prosecuted. Look, we're five million families; we're 80,000 law enforcement families. We're 11,000 law enforcement trainers. We want to make people safe; that's what the N.R.A. does every day.

DAVID GREGORY:

You've opposed the assault weapons ban. There will be a vote on this, separate from the main bill. Nobody really thinks it's going to pass but the vice president and the president are arguing that it should. Here's what Vice President Biden said this week; I'd like you to answer his challenge.

(Videotape)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There is not one single thing— not one, not one single thing— being proposed that infringes on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

This is not about anybody’s Constitutional right to own a weapon.

Tell me how it violates anyone’s constitutional rights to have a clip that holds 10 rounds instead of 30?

(End videotape)

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

And here's why the whole thing doesn't work. It was lied into law ten years ago; it didn't work. The studies show it didn't work. Anybody that knows anything about firearms knows that the AR-15, which uses a .223 cartridge, this is the very low end of the power spectrum of rifle cartridges. Every round that deer hunters use is more powerful: .243, .270, .308, .2506, 7 millimeter. This whole thing about the fact they're machine guns, they're different, they make bigger holes, they have rapid fire; it's all a lie. Gun owners know that. They may be a victim of the lies, but they know the truth.

DAVID GREGORY:

But it's interesting. You're saying that it wouldn't work; you're not disagreeing with him when he says it's not an abridgement of the second administration right.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Oh, it is an abridgement of the-- they're the more commonly owned firearms in America. And it is an absolute abridgement under the Heller case. I mean, let me give you the real sad thing though. Let me hold up a mirror right now to the whole national news media and the White House. I just got the track data from Syracuse University of enforcement of federal gun laws. Last time I was here, I brought it from 2011; it just came out from 2012.

Do you know where Chicago ranks in terms of enforcement of the federal gun laws? Out of 90 jurisdictions in the country, they ranked 90th. Why doesn't NBC News start with, "Shocking news on Chicago. Of all the jurisdictions in the country, Chicago's dead last on enforcement of the federal gun laws"? Why doesn't the national press corps, when they're sitting down there with Jay Carney and the president and the vice president, why don't they say, "Why is Chicago dead last in enforcement of the gun laws against gangs with guns, felons with guns, drug dealers with guns"?

DAVID GREGORY:

And you support those as felonies, being charged as felonies?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Absolutely. And we want them taken off the street. I mean, if you're the president and the vice president, and the attorney general, and your job is to enforce these laws against the-- I'm talking about drug dealers, gangs, and felons that are walking around with guns in the street, and you don't do it? You bear some responsibility. It is tragic--

DAVID GREGORY:

You think the N.R.A. can prevail in New York? You heard Mayor Bloomberg saying you can bring suits, but it's certainly within the realm of New York State to pass the laws they do. It's constitutional to do so.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

The laws they've banned are some of the most commonly owned sporting firearms, target-shooting firearms, self-defense firearms. And, yes, they're protected under Heller, the guns they banned.

DAVID GREGORY:

You brought up school safety. You were here last time, and when you addressed Newtown you said that's the key, more armed guards in schools.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

South Dakota has passed a law allowing just that. Twenty-seven provisions now being undertaken to arm school personnel. Were you right?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

90% of school administrators, 90% say that armed security, police officers in schools, make those schools safer. Not a mom or dad wants to drop their kid off at school and leave their kids unprotected. Yes, we were right. And we're right that the mental health system needs to be fixed. The civil commitment laws are in a mess. Every police officer knows that.

We can't even-- as I said before, I've been working for 20 years to get those adjudicated mentally incompetent and dangerous into the national instant check system; we're still trying to get that done. And we need enforcement of the federal gun laws.

We want to do the real things that make people safe. I mean, what's appalled me about this whole debate is how little it's had to do with making people safe, and how much it has to do with this decade agenda to attack the second amendment.

DAVID GREGORY:

Bottom line: Will President Obama sign a new set of gun control measures?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I hope we end up signing something that updates the system and gets those mentally incompetent and adjudicated into the system. We've forced the administration somehow to enforce the federal gun laws; I know they don't want to do it, but they ought to do it. It's their responsibility. That would make people safe.

Put programs like Project Exile in every American city where, if you're a drug dealer, a gang member, a felon, and you touch a gun, it's a 100% certainty you're going to be prosecuted and taken off the street. That ought to start tomorrow morning. But it won't do it unless the national media gets on the administration and calls them out for their incredible lack of enforcement of these laws.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, we're going to leave it there. Wayne LaPierre, always appreciate you coming on and taking my questions.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Thanks for having me.

(COMMERCIAL)

DAVID GREGORY:

And we're back with our roundtable. We'll get some reaction to the gun debate in a few minutes, but I want to talk about the big issue of gay marriage that's coming up before the Supreme Court this week, and our roundtable was here to discuss it.

Look at the polling, Ralph Reed, about Americans' views about same-sex marriage. And if we put it up here, it's worth really paying attention to. 58% support it; in 2006, it was 36%. And the opposition is completely flipped; now 36% oppose it only, and 58% opposed it back in 2006. Is this country, and therefore the Supreme Court, poised to accept gay and lesbian marriage as true marriage equality?

RALPH REED:

Well, I wouldn't build a house on one pole. That same ABC News/Washington Post poll that everybody's made a big deal out of this week, just a couple of months away it was 51/47 for same-sex marriage, and against. Basically a jump ball. We've got a poll in the last two weeks from Quinnipiac University which shows it 47/43. On election day in the network exit poll, it was 49/46. This is all within the margin of error.

DAVID GREGORY:

Hilary Rosen, this is still an equally--

RALPH REED:

It's clearly moved, but the idea that the American people are, you know, universally for same-sex marriage is just not backed by--

DAVID GREGORY:

One of the things you look at, Hilary, you look at the youth vote. You look at young Americans who supported overwhelmingly; that same poll, 81% under 30 support marriage equality. Where are we as the Supreme Court takes this up?

HILARY ROSEN:

Well, and another interesting part about the youth vote; unlike a lot of other issues that Ralph works on, the evangelical youth, according to Alex Lundry, Mitt Romney's data analyst, over 60% of evangelical youth support marriage. So this is an issue that is just taking over the tide.

And I think that the Supreme Court, as good citizens as they are, are really going to decide this case based on what's fair and right based on the Constitution. Which is, is there a rational reason to treat two sets of loving couples differently under the law?

DAVID GREGORY:

David Brooks, the country is divided. I mean, there are 41 states that either ban it or treat gay marriage as something different than traditional marriage. Does that matter?

E.J. DIONNE:

Yes, but I'm with Hilary, the trend is pretty amazing. Listen, we've had 5,000 years of western civilization; has there ever been a society that's given complete equality to gays and lesbians, until ours and currently western Europe? No. This is a big, historic moment. And the movement, I think, is just overwhelming and gradual and almost irreversible.

Now, why has it happened? 1) because a lot of brave gay and lesbian people had the courage to come out. And people got to see them. Second, because it became about marriage. It became about order. It became about having committed, long-term relationships, which people conservative and liberal believe in. And so those two things have moved I think the debate tectonically. To me, the only fear now is the Court. The Court overreaches and tries to impose a solution from the top, and that sort of freezes and polarizes the debate.

DAVID GREGORY:

E.J., I want to get to you in just a second, but I want to come back to, Ralph. I mean, David wrote back in 2003, we looked at your column, 2003 you wrote the following: "The conservative Court is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn't just allow gay marriage, we should insist on gay marriage." What is your opposition to it?

RALPH REED:

Well, I think the issue before the Court, and the issue before the American people-- and they have, after all, voted in 31 state referenda and initiatives for traditional marriage, only three have they voted the other way. So this thing tests very differently at the ballot box than it does in a poll. The issue before the country is do we have a compelling interest in strengthening and supporting the durable, enduring, and uniquely complementary and procreative union of a man and a woman. And--

DAVID GREGORY:

You look at divorce rates; I don't know if "durable--"

RALPH REED:

Well, no, the answer-- that would be an argument for why we ought to strengthen it, not why we ought to throw--

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me get E.J.'s reaction--

(OVERTALK)

RALPH REED:

--the reason why is because it's better for children, and all the social science shows that.

DAVID GREGORY:

Although the American--

HILARY ROSEN:

Academy of Pediatrics.

DAVID GREGORY:

--Academy of Pediatrics disagrees. They think it's good--

RALPH REED:

And the American College of Pediatricians came out the other way.

DAVID GREGORY:

E.J., get in here.

DAVID BROOKS:

I think the conservative argument is actually better for gay marriage than against it. I have a friend who's worked for a fairly conservative Christian institution for a long time who said, "Our problem isn't that gays and lesbians want to get married, it's that they're the only people who want to get married." Now, he was exaggerating to make a point.

His point was that family breakdown among heterosexuals is a big deal. And that if, instead of arguing about gay marriage, where we're talking about people who want to make a commitment to each other, we actually got together and said, "How can we figure out ways of strengthening the family? How can we figure out what economic forces are ripping the family apart?" we could have a much more constructive conversation in the country.

And the second point I'd make is, you know, sometimes the Supreme Court issues rulings that are inherently divisive. The country isn't ready yet. I thought that was what this case was going to be, you know, two, three, four years ago. I now think that if the Court actually rules in favor of gay marriage, it is simply going with where public opinion is going. 50% of Republicans under 50 in that Post/ABC poll supported gay marriage.

HILARY ROSEN:

Here's another interesting point, though, on the public sentiment, which is the states that have legalized marriage, the public support for marriage is growing more rapidly than in other states. That means that what they have found is that married gay couples are just like other neighbors. You know, caring about their families and their communities and their churches and their schools and the like.

But Ralph raises a point we cannot ignore, which is the rationale that the opposition is putting before the Supreme Court. The only difference between a gay couple and a married straight couple that gets benefits from the federal government is that one has accidental procreation. I think that would be a surprise to a lot of infertile, heterosexual couples.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, let me--

RALPH REED:

Well, that's not really a fair characterization.

HILARY ROSEN:

Of course it is. That's what the brief says. And that's the point you just made.

RALPH REED:

No, what--

HILARY ROSEN:

Which is the point of marriage is procreation. That's not the point of marriage.

RALPH REED:

No, what I--

HILARY ROSEN:

The point of marriage is love and commitment.

RALPH REED:

What I said was the verdict of social science is overwhelming and irrefutable. And that is, without regard to straight or gay, in other words this applies to one-parent households, it applies to foster homes, it applies to the whole panoply, they've looked at them all, that the enduring, loving, intact biological mother and father is best for children. And it's not even a close call. And the only issue before the Court is, is there a social good to that? And does the government have a legitimate interest in protecting and strengthening it?

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me turn to the issue--

RALPH REED:

That's the only--

(OVERTALK)

HILARY ROSEN:

--dispute on the science.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay, I want to turn to that question for the Court. We're talking about the politics behind the same-sex marriage fight. The legal aspect, of course, comes to a head this week at the Supreme Court. Starting Tuesday, nine justices will hear oral arguments on the two potential landmark cases that they will be looking at.

It's the first time same-sex marriage laws have been reviewed by the Court, but it won't be the first time one of the lawyers arguing for same-sex marriage, David Boies, finds himself in the middle of yet another one of the country's most anticipated Court cases. He of course was Vice President Gore's attorney during Bush v. Gore which effectively closed the book on the 2000 presidential election by ending the Florida recount. And Mr. Boies is with me here. Good to have you.

DAVID BOIES:

Good to be here. This time, I've got Ted Olson, who is representing--

DAVID GREGORY:

That's right. You guys are a team here, which is striking.

DAVID BOIES:

Together. So it's better.

DAVID GREGORY:

Pick up on this conversation.

DAVID BOIES:

Sure.

DAVID GREGORY:

What is it that you need the Court to decide, in lay language?

DAVID BOIES:

Sure. At the very beginning of this case, we said we needed to prove three things. We needed to prove, first, that marriage was a fundamental right. And I think we did that, and even the defendants agreed with that, because the Supreme Court has ruled that 14 times in the last 100 years.

Second, we needed to prove that depriving gay and lesbian citizens of the right to marry seriously harmed them, and seriously harmed the children that they were raising. And we proved that too, not only through our witnesses but through the defense witnesses.

DAVID GREGORY:

Can I just interrupt on that point, because I think it's significant? Which is, in effect, are you saying that you want gays and lesbians to be treated as a protected class, like African Americans? So in other words, the burden is so high to discriminate against them?

DAVID BOIES:

That's exactly what the administration's brief says. But we believe that, even if you simply apply the rational basis test, there is no rational basis to justify this ban. And that's because of the third thing that we proved, which was that there was no evidence, none, that allowing gays and lesbians to marry harms the institution of marriage or harms anyone else.

DAVID GREGORY:

That goes to Ralph Reed's point.

DAVID BOIES:

It does. And I think one of the things that's important is that the evidence is that having a loving couple that are married is great for children. Everybody agreed with that. But the evidence is that's true whether it's a gay couple or a straight couple. And it's true whether it's an adopted couple or a biological couple.

DAVID GREGORY:

Isn't it possible--

DAVID BOIES:

That's the evidence. The evidence is absolutely clear that, if you have a loving, adopted couple, it is no worse off at all than a biological couple.

DAVID GREGORY:

Look at the map, though. I want to come to the practicalities of-- frankly, the politics of the Court as well. We look at Roe v. Wade. These are the states, that are highlighted in blue, where same-sex marriage is banned. Aren't you effectively asking the Court, I realize that there's the difference between the California case and the Defense of Marriage Act case, to say, "With one stroke of the pen, we're going to invalidate what those states have done and create a constitutional right to marry for gays and lesbians"?

DAVID BOIES:

Every time the Supreme Court makes a constitutional decision, it's making a decision that certain fundamental rights are too important to be left to the ballot box. We've done that with race, we've done that with women; we've done that with every discriminated class. And remember, when the United States Supreme Court outlawed the bans on interracial marriage in 1967, 64% of the American people opposed interracial marriage. And yet, when that decision came down, there wasn't a ripple.

DAVID GREGORY:

Was Roe v. Wade decided too quickly?

DAVID BOIES:

Well, Roe v. Wade is an entirely different situation. We're not asking for a new constitutional right. The constitutional right to marry is well established. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that you can't take away the right to marry, even from imprisoned felons who can't have any procreation because they can't get together. But you can't take it away from those people because it's so important, it's such a fundamental right of liberty. And that right is already established. The only question is are you going to deprive gays and lesbians of this right because of their sex or their sexual orientation?

DAVID GREGORY:

Handicap this. Do you remember the Time Magazine last summer about Justice Kennedy, that he is the decider? How do you think this goes?

DAVID BOIES:

I'm not going to get in the business--

DAVID GREGORY:

Oh, you've talked about this already. You've been doing some of the handicap--

DAVID BOIES:

Well, but--

DAVID GREGORY:

You don't think it's going to be close?

DAVID BOIES:

What I've said is I think we're going to win. I don't think we're going to win 5/4. I think this is a basic civil rights issue. I don't think that this is the kind of issue that's going to divide the Court the way some other issues divide the Court.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you think it's possible that the Court makes a decision that doesn't resolve the rights question? In other words, doesn't resolve whether there's a right to marry?

DAVID BOIES:

Yes, they could because there's a technical legal issue called standing that's raised here. And the Court could decide that the defendants don't have standing. That would result in allowing marriage equality in California, because it would affirm the district court, but it would not have any general applicability.

DAVID GREGORY:

We will be watching. Mr. Boies, thank you very much--

DAVID BOIES:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

--for being here. We’re going to take a quick break, but we'll be back with more from our roundtable to get some reaction to the gun debate which you heard here this morning. We’ll be back after this.

(COMMERCIAL)

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back with our roundtable. I want to talk about the gun debate. One coda on this, Ralph Reed. I wanted just to ask you about the politics. We saw Hillary Clinton preparing herself potentially for a run coming out publicly in support of gay marriage this week. Does this change on the right? When and where does the political calculus change for Republicans on gay marriage?

RALPH REED:

I don't think it's going to change. If you look at the exit polls that I alluded to earlier, three-quarters of Obama voters said that they were for same-sex marriage; three-quarters of Romney voters said they were not. So there are people in the Democratic Party who, you know, support traditional marriage.

I thought it was really interesting, by the way, this week I think it was Politico went to a lot of the red state Democratic senators who are on the ballot in 2014, people like Mark Pryor in Arkansas and others, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana; they haven't changed their position.

\And I still think the Republican Party is going to remain a pro-family, pro-marriage, you know, pro-life party. I don't think that's going to change, and if it does, by the way, I think the big tent will become a pup tent. If you look at the data, 44% of all the votes Mitt Romney got last November were from self-identified evangelicals.

HILARY ROSEN:

But ironically, Alex Lundry, again, Romney's data analyst, suggests that the Republicans and Independents who voted for the president, who, by the way, won, actually--

RALPH REED:

I didn't know that.

HILARY ROSEN:

--overwhelmingly support marriage equality. And so this is a growing issue for Republicans and Independents. But again, I think the point that David Boies made is so fundamental, which is the Constitution either protects all Americans and all families, or it doesn't. And politicians have never had the spine on personal issues; that's what the courts are for--

DAVID GREGORY:

What about-- okay.

HILARY ROSEN:

--is to protect the spine of America.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me talk about the spine on the gun issue. E.J. Dionne, I mean, this is coming to a head. Reaction to what you heard from Mayor Bloomberg and from Wayne LaPierre, who sounded this morning like there's a little bit of wiggle room on background checks, perhaps not what Bloomberg and others would like, but that there might be a background check still.

E.J. DIONNE:

You know, I always thought it was easy to criticize the extreme end of the gun lobby for extremism; I didn't expect to be able to criticize them for inconsistency. There was something very odd about an argument that says, "These gun laws that are being imposed infringe on the first amendment. But we are not enforcing gun laws, laws to restrict violence, strongly enough." I think that's very peculiar.

I think the momentum is still with the advocates of saner gun laws. I think that the assault weapons ban is still hard to pass, which I think is very unfortunate but it's nonetheless true. There is strong support for background checks. And the issue that I don't think-- we're not going to get a bill on universal background checks.

The real issue is will it be compromised so much that too much will be given away? And I think there's a good chance of getting a law banning the big magazines. And I think, if you have that plus a law against gun trafficking, this would be a very significant victory for people who have been trying to get saner gun laws for a very long time.

RALPH REED:

Let me untangle the LaPierre contradiction, which I think he's right on one of the issues. Over the last 20 years, gun laws have become looser. Over the last 20 years, gun violence has dropped by 50%. Tens of thousands of people are alive today, not because it had any effect on gun laws, but because of better policing. Better policing, incarceration, some of these other things have huge effects on public safety.

The gun laws, historically, the Brady Bill, the assault weapon, very small effects. I support them. I think they'd be moderately positive. I think the background checks would be moderately positive. There is no historical record that these rules will have a huge effect on public safety. There is a historical record that the stuff LaPierre is talking about, and this is the one area I agree with him on, the policing, that has an effect.

So my question is why are we talking about these background checks and the magazines and the assault weapon bans, which may have a small effect; we're not talking about the stuff that has a big effect. And LaPierre, to his credit, is talking about that stuff.

DAVID GREGORY:

Meaning what? I mean, are you talking about police, are you talking about school safety?

RALPH REED:

Well, not putting guns in schools. What's led to the huge drop, tens of thousands of people alive today, it's because policing has changed, parole policies have changed, incarceration has changed. The culture has changed.

HILARY ROSEN:

But how ironic that the very same people who are pushing against gun laws and reasonable background checks are also the same people who have insisted on billions of dollars of cuts in government spending on the very same safety workers and police and fire and the like that do have an impact on society. And I just don't think they can have it both ways.

Look, this is going to come down to, you know, probably the six Democratic senators who are up for reelection in 2014. And I think what we're going to see is what Mayor Bloomberg said, which is that background checks and the points that E.J. made are going to seem very reasonable and modest. You know, one of the things about the focus on the assault weapons ban, in my view, is that you're reaching for the stars. If you reach for the stars of the assault weapons ban, you might just get the moon of the background check.

DAVID GREGORY:

Quick response, Ralph.

RALPH REED:

Our organization doesn't work on this issue so I'm speaking only for myself. But I think the devil will be in the details. Look, this bill already exempts family transfers. So Newtown doesn't even get prevented by this. The mother could go out and buy an assault weapon, because Harry Reid has already said that's not going to pass in the Senate, and she can give it to her son. That's what happened in Newtown; it happens under whatever the Senate--

HILARY ROSEN:

But there are multiple--

RALPH REED:

--and the House passes.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

--the second issue is that the background check currently is not really working.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, I've got to take a break here.

DAVID BROOKS:

That's the big problem.

(COMMERCIAL)

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you all for a great conversation on many topics this morning. That is all for today; we'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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